Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: Song on the Sand By Ruth Sims

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Published by UntreedReads
Rating: 5 Stars

Tony Dalby is 86. Confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home, he lives on memories of an almost career as an actor and dancer, and of his one brief brush with stardom as a stand-in for Zaza in La Cage aux Folles. Angry at the world, he makes life miserable for himself and the staff who look after him.

Tony befriends a handsome young man, Drew, who comes to the nursing home every day to visit his “cousin,” Jesse. “He looks awfully young to be here,” Tony says of Jesse. Drew responds, “He’s twenty-nine today, Mr. Dalby. And he can’t even celebrate.” Tony is horrified. “Boys of twenty-nine didn’t belong in a place like this, a depository for old people with nowhere else to go…”Jesse, blind, deaf and paralyzed as a result of an accident, was an actor too, in community theater. Tony begins to spend more time thinking about Jesse and less about himself, and finds his pent up anger gradually melting.

I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the plot for you. Suffice to say, Song on the Sand is sweet, even sentimental, the kind of story that a writer of lesser talent could make sappy and saccharine, but Ruth Sims is too fine an artist for cheap effects. She paints her canvas with a master’s brush, and it would take a colder heart than mine (which is infamously cold) to read this story without a tear in the eye.

I don’t mean to suggest this is a downer, however. It isn’t. It’s about love - not romantic love, but love of life – and about reaching out, of bridging that vast chasm that separates us from one another. It is written with genuine charm, which is not as easy as one might think, but it is written as well with insight and a gentle sympathy for the human condition. Tony and Jesse and their song on the sand will linger in your thoughts long after you’ve finished reading. Highly recommended, but have a hankie handy.

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